PILATE'S WIFE. BY THE REV. G. T. COSTER.

Matthew xxvii. 19. " When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that Just Man : for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him."

That is all that we know about Pilate's wife. She meets us in this one Scripture verse, and there she leaves us. But little is told us ; and yet how much implied in the little ! And the little quickens our desire for more.

There was the Blessed One, on His trial before Pilate — the bitter scribes and priests, with their loud and false accusations, seeking, determined, to compel the Governor to condemn Jesus. That Governor by his former cruelty and violence has put himself much in their power. If reported again to Rome he may look for removal from his high office. He fears them. They know that he fears them. They know his character — the weakness of the man behind the appearance of resolution and strength. Little as he thought it Pilate in that hour was on his trial as well as Jesus. And in sight of all the ages Pilate stands a condemned man in having condemned the Innocent whom he knew to be innocent.

"He knew that for envy "they clamoured for Jesus' death. That knowledge warned him ; his own little-heeded conscience warned him ; his wife warned him — in the very midst of the trial — against condemning
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"that Just Man."

Just for a moment she comes into the story of our Lord's life — and then is lost to us. But her word remains ; the record of her interest in the Saviour remains.

Oh, how a word spoken for Christ lives ! — always with its record on high ; — and often even here — when every other word spoken here is forgotten, that remembered. All her many other words forgotten, the 12

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brave word in which she spoke up and out for Christ is written in this page as on the rock for ever. To be read, to be told, through all time, " as a memorial of her." Not written by the Evangelist for nothing ?

Pilate's wife ! That is all the description by which she lives to us. Her name ? Tradition says — Claudia Procula. Tradition says that she was a Jewish proselyte. And the Greek Church has canonised her and numbers her among its saints. But all that we certainly know of her is in this verse. Learn from it

I. The testimony of woman to Christ. — Then, when no one stood by

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Him — when no one spoke for Him — a woman spoke for Him. Men opposed Him. Early began the opposition ; in Judea, down in Galilee ; in the village, and town, and city — everywhere some looked on Him with evil eye ; watched Him that they might accuse Him ; questioned Him that they might catch Him in His words ; unable to deny His miracles, put them down to the devil's power ; plotted against Him ; sought to kill Him ; bore against Him the spirit of murder, and at last, though under the forms of law, did murder Him. Men thus acted.

But what woman thus acted ? What woman watched Him with cruel

eye ; denied Him ; deserted Him ; betrayed Him ; sought His death ?

Not she with trait'rous kiss her Saviour stung, Not she denied Him with unholy tongue ! She, while apostles shrank, could danger brave, Last at His cross, and earliest at His grave.

Beautiful the friendliness of women to Christ ; dear to us the written names of those who cared for Him — ministering to Him of their substance, showing Him hospitality, giving to Him of their best. Beautiful — but not to be wondered at.

His relationship with us was through His mother — only through His mother. Hence in His human heart a womanly tenderness with all His

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calm and Divine majesty.

Woman, with her quick insight into character, saw in Him a Friend, and Saviour, and Lord ; trusted Him, followed Him, clung to Him when all things seemed against Him.

Well may woman cling to Him. How much she owes Him ! How He has uplifted her, crowned her, made the drudge and slave and plaything into man's companion ! His gentleness has made her great.

For woman's testimony to Christ listen to those redeemed by Him from

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all the degradations of heathenism ; from the emptiness and frivolity of a vain and foolish life ; from the cares that weigh heaviest on woman's heart ; from the unutterable longings that never can be satisfied with all the world can give.

Woman may well be the friend of Jesus. And pleasant is it to remember that even in the dark hour — so darkened by the shadow of the Cross — when He was on His trial, a woman's voice pleaded for Him. When no man's voice was heard then spake woman's into the judge's ear the word of tender, solemn pleading. Little, perhaps, Pilate's wife's

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personal knowledge of Him; but it was enough for her to testify to Him as " that Just Man." Not only worthy to live, but also of highest, of all honour !

II. The testimony of dreams to Christ. — She had had a dream about Him. This was her message to Pilate on the Judgment-seat : " Have thou nothing to do with that Just Man : for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." " This day," she says — not this night. Her dream had been dreamt "in the morning hours," when, according to the belief of those times, " dreams are true."

And what of her dream ? Shall we regard it simply as a reflection of her day-thoughts respecting Jesus ? Her husband had been appointed Procurator of Judaea four years before this time (a.d. 29), so that the period of her residence at Cassarea and Jerusalem would cover the whole of our Saviour's ministry. She had, doubtless, in different ways, come to hear much about Him. And from all she heard of His gracious words and wonderful works He was to her no rebel against Rome, no perverter of the nation, no blasphemer, as His enemies declared, but a Just Man.

And, now, was this early morning dream just a reflection of her waking conviction as to Jesus ? Nothing more ? Surely more ! For she says : " I have suffered many things in a dream because of Him." What was the dream ? We know not ; imagine what you will you know not. But hear what has been imagined by a modern poet, author of the hymn " Crown Him with many crowns " —

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" Oh, touch not thou that Holy Head,"

The wife of Pilate cried ; " Full is my heart with fear and dread,

As though a Friend had died, Or was about Jo die, instead

Of some one else beside; Spare thou that Just One ; let Him go, The whispering spirits tell me so.

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" Mysterious dream : I saw a fire

All boundless in its blaze, Raging in red omnivorous ire,

And scorching in its rays ; It licked the heavens with many a spire,

Nor could I bear to gaze :

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The clouds together seemed to roll And wither like a parchment scroll.

" Hosts upon hosts essayed in vain

The ruthless flames to quell : Each mountain, city, tower, and plain

Subsided in the hell ; Ten thousand sounds of woe and pain

Blended into a yell, Such as hath struck no mortal ear But mine — in this last night of fear.

" The rocks were rent, the welkin rang ;

When, lo ! as from^a'throne, While souls in secret sorrow sang,

A Lamb came forth alone. Its look was love ; it hushed the clang

Of Earth's tremendous groan ; Then, mounting on the awful pyre, Pierced its own heart, and quenched the fire.

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" And as it died, its closing eyes

With tears most piteous ran ; Its face beneath the frowning skies

Waxed wonderfully wan ; Then change ; and in amazing guise

An aspect wore of Man, A Man Divine, and more than fair, Too like the Mystic Prisoner there."

That is a poet's striking imagination of the dream. But whatever the dream, Pilate's wife suffered in dreaming it — either we are warranted in supposing because she dreamt of the cruel usage to which the innocent Jesus of Nazareth was subjected, or because of the judgments that fell upon those by whom He was cruelly used.

Her dream testified to the innocence of our Lord. A Divine dream we may call it. Then God used the dream, as He had often done before, as, doubtless, he has often done since.

And are all dreams to be heeded ? No ; we must distinguish. There are "wicked dreams," that "disturb the curtained sleep," — foul, vile, that could come only from the Evil One. There are "dreams of the

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stomach — foolish fantasies that arise from indigestion ; " and also dreams that are Divine. In the words of Elihu (Job xxxiii. 14-16) "For God speaketh ... in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth

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upon men, in slumberings upon the bed ; then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction." The Bible speaks of many such, and not only touching spiritual matters, such as Jacob's at Bethel, and Paul's dream of a man of Macedonia entreating help ; for few of the dreams in this Book refer to spiritual things. Recall the dreams of Joseph, of Pharaoh's servants, of Pharaoh himself, of Nebuchadnezzar, and of others. These were temporal in their character, and affected the dreamers as individuals alone.

And shall we say that dreams then were needed and not now ? that we have God's will fully in these pages revealed to us? that we have *' alight unto which we do well to take heed " — a light bright and sufficient for us? And had not Paul such ? Yet to him came as his guide, sometimes anyway, the ministry of dreams.

Wonderful, mysterious ! And used sometimes, as history and the experience of many will attest, in modern days to warn, to guide men. And thus, too, crimes have been detected.

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We believe, then, that God, who used the dream in olden times, uses it still. When is man so alone as in sleep ? God loves to speak to man when alone. Then, in the night-silence, the spirit unhindered, God can seal His instruction upon the unsleeping spirit.

Oh, how such dreams call man out of his little world ? He has been narrowing his thoughts and hopes to his small business world, and, lo ! there is a spirit world — a world where the soul is quick and takes no count of time, living through long stretches of time — imagined time and circumstances — in a few fleeting minutes ! a world of wonders and glories as well as of terrors and sorrows ; a spirit-world that teaches us that we are more than shop and home and money and toil, more than journeying feet and wearying hands — that we are spirit, and that we are on the way to the spirit-land, where it shall dwell in unhindered life and service.

That is a lesson we may learn from dreams. And the character of the dream will show the source of it. The wicked dream, the foolish dream, we may gladly forget — they come not from above. But the dream pure and heavenly — beautiful with a light never upon sea or land, with soothing, warning, or guiding voices, can be but from One. They may seldom come ; but when they come we know whence they come.

Pilate's wife's dream was about Christ. Doubtless she had heard much about Him, about His miracles of goodness ; and had He not recently,

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94 Pilate's Wife.

just beyond the hill at Bethany, raised a man from death to life ? Had He not entered the city but a few days ago amid the jubilant cries of the multitude? May she not have heard much about Him from the friendly rulers, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea ? Any way, whatever her waking knowledge — little or much — of Jesus her dream assures her that He is a Righteous Man, and for her husband to lend himself to clamour for His death will only be for that Governor to load his soul with < ' the deep damnation " of condemning innocence to death.

Her dream bore testimony to Christ — not the only dream that had been dreamt about Jesus. By a dream the wise men had been warned not to report their discovery of the infant " King of the Jews " to Herod. By a dream Joseph had been told to flee into Egypt to save the " young Child's life." By a dream, when cruel Herod was dead, Joseph was directed to return into Judsea with "the young Child and His mother." Dreams about Christ !

And have not all of us had them? If not by night yet by day? — in a word, our imagination touched by the purity, kindled by the glory of Christ? In some hours of life how He has shone to you, "glorious in His apparel ! " You have had your vision of Him — the King ! the Saviour ! the Friend ! the Brother ! How beautiful ! how gracious ! how wise those

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guided by His wisdom ! How happy those saved by His grace ! How blest those living in His love !

Oh, that vision of the imagination ! True : but only a beam of the glorious fullness of truth ! That vision was from God to charm you, to win you to Jesus. Oh, be " not disobedient to the heavenly vision."

III. The testimony of suffering to Christ. — " Have thou nothing to do with that Just Man : for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." Not only in the dream. In her waking thoughts, too. Now ! Else why seek thus to save Him ? The suffering lived on into the day — that He, the Righteous Man, should be condemned unrighteously to die!

" This Just Man." She knew enough about Him to know that of Him. She has heard of Him if she has not seen Him. The thought of Him has taken hold of her. This Man should not be on His trial ! A Just Man ! None but the unjust would seek His death.

She would do her best to save him. Pilate — she knows that he has often been cruel to the weak. She would warn him against such cruelty now.

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The wife failed. But was it not well in the wife to have tried ? In distress of spirit she made the fruitless effort. It was well. Christ knew of it. We know of it — to our instruction. Her own heart was eased by the thought that she had done what she could.

The godly wife of the godless husband — let her bear her testimony for Christ with meekness of wisdom, with tenderness. For whom should she be in such earnest prayer, in such holy anxiety, as for the partner of her life ? And how often the husband has been won to Christ by the conversation of the wife !

Deep her feeling, being in an agony to save him — the Just Man ; eager was the message sent to her husband. He was on the judgment throne when the the messenger whispered the strange and solemn warning in his ear. An uncommon thing this for her to do. This was no common hour. And He for whom she pleaded was ** not in the roll of common men."

Did she suffer much for Christ ? We may hope, then, much for her. Suffer ? And many things ? Strange ! Not strange ! Other women in that hour were suffering many things for Christ — and she knows enough of Him to be in that fellowship of suffering.

Oh, what may we not hope for her ! Did she thus plead for Christ upon His trial ? Not indifferent, then, could she be to His death. She saw the darkness ; she felt the earthquake ; she must have heard of the resurrection. And all that nothing to her? We cannot think it. Rather

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would we believe that, though unchronicled here, she became • ' obedient to the faith " — one to whom the Blessed Lord said : "I have called thee by name; thou art Mine."

Is there one here who has not suffered many things because of Christ ? You have not received Him as your Saviour and King but you have suffered for it — in that trouble of conscience, in that unrest of heart, in that dissatisfaction of spirit. Oh, there is suffering in resisting His grace, in trifling with His mercy, in delaying to accept His love !

And suffering, too, humbling, yet blessed suffering in our first acquaintance with Him — suffering that we should so have sinned against Him, so have grieved Him, so have delayed receiving Him — that we are so unlike Him.

Oh that suffering ! — increased by the resistance of the worldly heart. It is through tribulation we begin the path to, as well as u enter, the kingdom."

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Think of, accept, " Jesus Christ the Righteous" as your Advocate with the Father, your Hope, your Saviour. The Righteous ! In Him was no sin. He could be your substitute. He can be your Advocate. Trust

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Him.

Put not this word from you. If — to use one of Dr. Payson's illustrations — you should see at this moment a very fine, an almost invisible thread coming down from heaven and attaching itself to you, and knew it came from God, what would you do? Would you dare to thrust it away? Now, this word of appeal is like a thread. It is weak and frail, and you can easily brush it away. But will you ? No ! Welcome it, and it will enlarge and strengthen itself, until it becomes a golden thread to bind you to that Just Man — the Saviour — and to bind you for ever. Amen.

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